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The effect of US anti-terror laws on Canada

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The Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia made a call for submissions on whether the USA PATRIOT Act could allow the U.S. authorities to gain access to Canadians' personal information, enabled through the outsourcing of Canadian public services to the United States. The Commission also called for comments on the implications for compliance with Canadian provincial privacy laws, and to see if anything could be done to eliminate or mitigate the risks.

In this submission to the BC Commissioner, we contend that the USA-PATRIOT Act does allow access by U.S. authorities, as do many other laws within the U.S. and other agreements between the U.S. and Canada. Moreover, Canadian laws and practices are as equally invasive as the USA-PATRIOT Act, and also provide access to this personal information by other foreign entities.

In response to this state of affairs, we call for a renewed discussion and debate to re-invigorate privacy protections lest they become ineffective in this new environment. Canadian laws were created to protect privacy and civil liberties, and yet they are often in vain. Fighting terrorism is legitimate; applying terror rules to non-terror-related situations is dishonest, and we ask that this situation be fixed. Failing that, the trust and faith of Canadian citizens in their laws and in their human rights protections will continue to erode, even as these Canadian laws and practices are copied by other countries. This practice is corrosive to human rights internationally.

PI's interest in Canada is genuine and long-standing. Prominent members of our advisory board are Canadian, and have played roles cultivating and nurturing the strong culture of privacy in Canada, and on the legislative landscape too. Last year we met with the Canadian Parliament Citizenship & Immigration Committee regarding the National ID card system, and participated in the consultation process.